I have spent more time thinking about my feelings and memories lately. Just recently, I recalled a conversation with my therapist about emotions that I suppressed for a long time. Most of these are emotions which are generally seen as negative: envy, anger, resentment, loss, shame, guilt, defilement and abandonment.
If you would have asked me just a few months ago if I felt rage and envy, I would have smiled patiently and said “No. I am a caring and supportive person. I see no need for envy or rage.” Well, last month, I experienced both emotions in spades with the same person. On this particular day, my coping mechanism did not work and I felt the full brunt of these visceral emotions.
But illusions are stronger than we might want them to be. ~Henri J.M. Nouwen, Reaching Out
It was a hurtful experience because I was not accustomed to feeling such emotions as I usually disassociate when triggered by certain events. Disassociation means that I typically separate cause from effect. I do not connect why we I feel such emotions or perform certain actions. I avoid looking at the cause which usually means avoiding looking at the trauma as well. Many adults remain in denial of childhood trauma and therefore act out in ways they can not understand.
I realize now that the reason I never allowed myself to feel certain negative emotions as an adult is that these were the emotions I felt during some of the most traumatic times in my childhood. When I was the surrogate parent and friend to a drug-addicted mother, as a caretaker to an alcoholic step-mother, as a surrogate parent to my brothers and a victim of repeated sexual abuse. The feelings of envy, anger, resentment, loss, shame, guilt, defilement and abandonment are all there beneath the veil; woven within all the memories.
“A child who has been a parent’s surrogate partner suffers a deep emotional wound. The intuitive sense of self that permits the freedom and trust necessary to make constructive choices in relationships is damaged. ” ~ Dr. Kenneth M. Adams, Silently Seduced: When Parents Make Their Children Partners
It’s no surprise that having such negative emotions tied to childhood intimate relationships cause issues with establishing intimate relationships in adulthood. The most obvious area is sex. For many with similar backgrounds (men and women), sex can feel as though the same wounds are being applied anew and the emotions surge to the surface.
We feel abandoned by the loving person who is seeking intimacy with us. Envious of their ability to experience authentic sexual desire and want for connection and anger and resentment at our inability to feel the same. Along with this perceived deficit within ourselves comes the remembered loss of innocence, guilt, and shame, and ultimately a renewed sense of loss for the intimacy with ourselves and others that we have never known.